Solomon the Accountant
By Edward M. Krauss
Deborah was home again, had been home three days, to her parent's great joy. The first two days she had been unpacking, calling her former employer to discuss returning, running errands, helping her mother. Now things were settling down. The evening of the third day she sat quietly eating, nestled in love, her mother urging her to have another generous helping of salad, the green food was so good for her. Deborah sighed contentedly. "I missed this so much. You, Dad, the comforts of home
Irv Goldman nodded approvingly. "You did a Mitzvah, a real Mitzvah. So many weeks you gave them." Simka Goldman also nodded approvingly, beaming. "Your aunt Rachel called me again this afternoon, telling me how much you did for them, she can't thank you enough for helping Janice and the family
here, have some more potatoes."
"One! A small one, please." As her mother put a potato on her plate, Deborah turned toward her father, giving her mother an opportunity to spoon a second potato her way. Deborah sat looking at her father, a serious expression on her face. "Dad, Herman is coming over later. He wants to ask you something."
Both parents froze in mid-eating, raised their eyes to each other. Then Irv turned to his daughter.
"He wants to ask me something?"
At this Deborah allowed a tiny, mischievous smile to begin.
"Yeah, he wants to ask you something."
Simka Goldman whooped, clapped her hands.
"Come help me in the kitchen a minute, Deborah. Come on." The two women almost sprang from the table and hurried to the kitchen. A moment later brief shouts and short bursts of laughter were heard, while the man of the house shook his head and continued eating. Shortly the sounds stopped, and Deborah and her mother returned, very calm, as if nothing had happened. Simka spoke to her husband. "So, nu, you want dessert now or when the boy comes?"
"I don't know. When he comes, when he goes
let me see what happens with this question and answer business, then I'll tell you."
The family returned to their routine. Irv smoked a cigar outside while the women cleaned up. Even outside he could hear the occasional laughter. He came in, picked up the newspaper and sat in his usual chair. A typical evening in the Goldman household. The women fussed with the house, fussed with their appearances. He ignored them as best he could.
The doorbell rang.
Deborah spoke up, brightly, like a school girl. "Now who could that be?"
Irv remained seated, buried in his paper. Simka didn't know what to do with herself, so she hovered in the arched opening between the dining room and kitchen. Deborah went to the door and opened it. Herman was standing there, wearing a tie and sport coat, his hair carefully combed. He looked flushed and nervous. He stepped inside, Deborah closed the door, Irv lowered his paper enough to see their visitor, and everyone waited.
The man of the house took control. "Hello, Herman. Been a while. How are you, how's the family?"
He answered in a rush. "Fine, sir, we're all fine. And hello Mrs. Goldman. And Deborah."
The women both answered him, almost as one. "Hello Herman." The tableau held, Deborah standing near, Irv in his chair ready to lift the paper and resume reading, Simka standing in the kitchen doorway quietly squeezing the life out of a dishcloth in her hands. Then Herman took a deep breath and said "Mr. Goldman, I wonder if I could talk to you alone for a moment." He turned, his eyes taking in first Deborah and then her mother. He spoke so respectfully. "I'm sorry, if you would please excuse us."
Simka said "Certainly. Deborah, you make some tea while I get dessert ready?"
Deborah almost skipped to her mother's side, and they hurried into the kitchen, whispering.
Irving Goldman looked towards the kitchen, then back at the young man standing near him. "Nu?"
Herman stood there, the very picture of uncertainty, then moved to a nearby chair where he perched uncomfortably on the front edge of the cushion. "Mr. Goldman
At that, the older man gave Herman an exaggerated, conspiratorial wink and with his large, muscular hands indicated that he should wait a moment. Then he stood, moved to the couch, sat down and signaled for Herman to come sit next to him. Herman stood, walked to the couch, and sat where indicated. Irving leaned forward, spoke in a half whisper. "Shaa, softly, it will make them crazy. So let me guess. You want to marry my daughter. I also want you should marry my daughter, so stop sweating already. And loosen that knot, I can't breathe when I look on you."
Herman smiled a smile of great relief and did as instructed, taking an enormous breath and letting it out dramatically. Irv Goldman nodded his approval, saying "Much better. Much better, now we both breathe more easy." He pointed towards the kitchen.
"Let's sit here a little longer, make them even crazier. So I'm asking you, you want to come in the business?"
"Irving. Call me Irving. Or Irv. Look, you don't have to decide right now, but
I don't have a son to leave my half the business to, and Deborah isn't going to wrestle with barrels and trucks all day, so
maybe you want to come in the business. You should excuse me saying this, but Deborah once told us you aren't so crazy about that job of yours. So maybe it would be good for you, and it should make me happy if you say yes. So like I said, let me know. Either way you decide I welcome you, blessings on you both. Welcome to the family."
Sitting on the couch the two men shook hands firmly, Herman's hand swallowed in the other's. Once more Irv leaned in, again with the whisper. "Now, maybe you don't know about me and my bride, but a little bit we are practical jokers. All our years together, a little trick we play now and then. Nothing mean, but a good joke is better than diamonds. So now you and me, we going to practical joke those women. I'm going to shout something angry at you. You shout the same words angry right back at me. The same words, good and angry. OK?"
Herman looked a bit dubious. "OK."
"Don't be so afraid, just a joke, you'll love how we do them."
Herman squared his shoulders, gave a brave smile. "I'm ready, Irv. Let's practical joke those women."
All this time Deborah and Simka Goldman stood in the kitchen. They had taken a few moments to prepare the desert, boil the water for tea and fill the best teapot, saved for special occasions, but they had soon run out of things to do and now fidgeted, waiting, trying to hear something from the quiet front room, meeting each other's eyes and shrugging.
Irving Goldman, conspiracy leader, stood up and walked carefully to the front door. Herman stood too, but stayed close to the couch. Irv opened the front door as quietly as possible, turned towards Herman, gave one more broad, conspiratorial wink, and suddenly shouted, loud and angrily, "To hell with you!" To which Herman responded "Yeah, well to hell with you!" At that Irv Goldman slammed the door hard.
In the kitchen the women exchanged looks of astonishment and horror, stricken with disaster. They moved through the doorway and the dining room, unconsciously each holding her hands clasped tight together. As they turned the corner towards the front room they saw Irv Goldman standing, pointing, his face clearly saying "Gotcha!" Herman stood with his hands in front of him, palms up, helpless surrender.
Simka reacted first. "Irving Goldman! You could cause a heart attack with your foolishness!"
"Yes, my dear. Is dessert ready?"
Simka folded her arms. "There is no dessert for nobody in this house until somebody says what's up."
"What's up is the children are getting married and maybe he comes in the business should he want to. Is the tea getting cold?"
That was it, the damn broke. Deborah hugged Herman, kissed Herman, hugged and kissed her father, Simka hugged Herman and kissed his cheeks and gave them a pinch. "Such a scare you gave me. You should not let that crazy husband of mine teach you such bad manners."
"For nothing. It was a good joke. Now I need to find one to do him. So you want some tea and cookies?"
Edward M. Krauss is a writer and mediator living in Columbus, Ohio.
SOLOMON THE ACCOUNTANT is a novel about Solomon's gentle, careful pursuit of Molly, widowed and heartbroken after less than a year of marriage. The story takes place in a middle-class Jewish neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio in 1950, and accurately reflects the spirit of that transitional time, sprinkled with Yiddish. A side story concerns Solomon's best friend Herman and his true love Deborah is featured in this excerpt.
Edward M. Krauss is the author of HERE ON MOON, a novel of betrayal, divorce, and recovery, and co-author of ON BEING THE BOSS, a book about effective crises management and the U.S. Constitution.
SOLOMON THE ACCOUNTANT may be purchased at
Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com or at leading bookstores.
from the December 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine